Divine Savages have been on my radar since husbands Tom Kennedy and Jamie Watkins launched the business in 2017 and the creative duo have gone from strength to strength. Building a reputation for their bold and daring designs they are most definitely in my maximalist camp. It’s not just my head that’s been turned, they have captured the attention of some of the best interior designers and brands and have many a collaboration under their belt. I’ve used them in my own projects more than once and love the individuality and instant impact their designs bring to a scheme. So I thought it was high time that I caught up with them to find out more about the twosome behind the name to find out what makes their incredible design mind tick.
Divine Savages did have a rather long gestation period! We’d always loved interiors but weren’t able to fully indulge our own style until we finally bought our first home. Tom has a background in design, illustration and fashion and his expertise on pattern naturally translates to interiors, so he designed a few elements for our home once we got started on the decorating – cushions, a shower curtain, some art prints – and the seed of an idea was planted that perhaps we could create and sell these. Later down the line Tom started suffering from migraines and vertigo and so had to take some time off work and ultimately decided to go freelance so he could better manage his health and recovery, and it was during this period he had the time to really focus on the idea we’d had before – of creating our own interiors brand. Later that year Divine Savages was born!
Brave. Maximalist. Rebellious. Colourful. Cheeky.
Feature walls can sometimes get a bad rep, but we’re here for them – if they’re done right! Think beyond the standard one wall and wrap wallpaper beyond and around the corner. We did this in our living room, using the window edge and the picture rail as the natural boundaries. It just makes things more interesting and unique.
Tom’s crazy brain finds inspiration from pretty much everywhere! We’re really lucky living in London with so many amazing places on the doorstep – be that museums and exhibitions, the architecture and buildings, the rich tapestry of history and the mix of different cultures. We also find inspiration in popular culture, fashion and of course the natural world.
Yep, Divine Savages started very much as a side hustle and grew (quite rapidly!) from there. One thing we quickly learned is that you’ll never have all the answers to start with and that to wait until you do will just hold you back from taking that leap. If you’ve done your homework and research and got that business plan down, then just go for it – you’ll learn the answers you need eventually!
We love brands that share the Divine Savages DNA. Our designs have always found inspiration from the natural world and so for our first major collaboration to be with the iconic Natural History Museum was a huge moment for us and our brand. We had the pleasure of raiding their archives to find long-forgotten illustrations and original paintings, building plans and sketches and historical records to bring to wallpaper and fabrics for the very first time – it’s a real honour.
We also recently partnered with Alternative Flooring for their Stair Art collection; our now iconic Deco Martini print is available as a carpet for the very first time. We love how Alternative Flooring embraces bold pattern and print!
We won’t lie – it can be very full on at times, but we’re lucky that we both bring very different skills to the business. Tom leads all the creative and design side of things, and I focus on the business and marketing plans. It’s a really good partnership as we’re not getting in each other’s way during the day to day operations and can make quick decisions together when we need to. Of course, living together, being married and running a business is a unique situation, so the one thing we work really hard at is taking time out for each other; shutting that laptop and getting away from it all is really important.
Ari Danielson @arianna_danielson recently used our Deco Martini Arsenic wallpaper on the ceiling of her new kitchen – absolutely love this design choice; we’re definitely on board with the so-called ‘fifth wall’!
We also love Kyla Herbes of @houseofhipstersblog who used our Crane Fonda wallpaper on the inside of her closet, creating a burst of colour behind the door which is a really fun and easy way to bring pattern into the home if you’re a little nervous about committing to a whole wall or room
Tom will usually be at his desk designing, working on the website, liaising with our manufacturers, or working on a photoshoot. I’ll be working with existing clients and customers or developing new business relationships, managing the day to day operations and identifying new opportunities. No one day is the same when running your own business, part of the fun, part of the stress – but we wouldn’t have it any other way!
First up in 2020 is ICFF. It’s a major interiors trade show in New York in May and we’re really excited to be showcasing our collections there. It’s a whole new market for us and we hope to connect with new partners and develop new relationships. We’re working on some very special new additions to our collections for this, so keep your eyes peeled, plus we’re also creating new wallpaper books which we cannot wait to make available to our current trade partners.
We’ll then be focusing on the latter half of the year and a new collection – it’s something Tom’s already developing and from what I’ve seen so far, you’re in for a treat!
Thank you so much to Tom and Jamie for taking the time to honestly and openly share their design journey. I think they are set for great things and I wish them all the best. You can follow them on Instagram at @divinesavagesto keep an eye on their latest designs and collections.
Featured image at top: portrait photo by Francesco Guidicini